Small Talk and the Music Industry
Small Talk is a band with something to say. Beginning their journey at Canberra College, the band has grown into a local sensation. Small Talk’s mix of indie, pop and rock sound caught the eye of Triple J Unearthed, leading to their once-in-a-lifetime chance to open for the Rubens on the Canberra leg of their Lo La Ru tour, putting Small Talk on the map. With their easy-listening indie sound you can see why Small Talk has become big talk.
I caught up with three of the five band members, Jack Larmour, Lachlan Usher and Eliza Williams, to talk about their journey in Canberra’s music industry.
Q: How did Small Talk begin?
Jack: So myself, Jonah the guitarist and Lauren the singer, we were in a drama show that we were writing. Our high school drama teacher got us all together and we wrote all of the music for it and we put it on at the Street Theatre. We just decided we liked being in a band and kept at it for a little bit and we spent a year not doing much, just writing a few songs. Then we invited Lachlan on to play the drums for us when we were recording and then Eliza came on last year when we got the Rubens gig because we needed a bass player. The Rubens gig was probably my favourite.
Eliza: It was an amazing experience. It’s actually a funny story because when Jonah got the call from Triple J asking if we wanted to support the Rubens in Canberra, he thought it was a prank call!
Jack: We didn’t know there was a comp on and then we didn’t hear anything for another week so we assumed it must have been a prank call.
Lachlan: We just put our stuff onto Unearthed at the right time or something. We coincidentally won a competition that we didn’t know we entered into.
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☄️💥🔥 GOOD GOD WOULD YOU LOOK AT THAT WE ARE OPENING FOR THE RUBENS AND LITTLE MAY ☄️💥🔥 OH! AND WAIT! THERE’S MORE! OUR FABULOUS LAUREN WILL BE SINGING THE RUBENS HIT ‘NEVER EVER’ WITH THEM AT THE GIG! We genuinely cannot believe this happening and want to thank everyone who taken the time to listen to us!!! 💛🧡❤️ Make sure you come along on the 23rd of November for the Canberra leg of the Rubens LO LA RU Australian tour!
Q: What would you say has been the hardest part of Small Talk’s journey?
Lachlan: Can I say Lauren moving to Sydney? That’s been rough.
Jack: Yeah it’s hard getting everyone together for rehearsals and to write stuff. We’ve been trying to write new songs recently and Lauren’s barely down here.
Jack: We sort of thought that would be the end of the band but then we got the Rubens gig and then lots of gigs and it’s kept going but she’s now in Sydney.
Q: Where you surprised when the band started to get more attention?
Jack: I was extremely surprised. Jonah and I had spent the last year being like “As soon as we put up this song we’ll be huge” but we were always joking. I was definitely surprised about the Rubens gig.
Eliza: I think I was surprised as well at the amount of gigs that people were asking us to play. The bands that were touring to Canberra would ask us if we wanted to play and I was like “I didn’t know this many bands came to Canberra!”
Jack: We assumed we would be opening for one Brisbane band, Port Royal, but we were the third act, they had other openers. They must have thought we were good!
Q: Would you say opening for the Rubens is how you got your foot in the door of the industry?
Jack: That was our first gig as an actual band. Jonah, Lauren and I played a couple of gigs before but nothing that big.
Eliza: I think people thought we’d been gig-ing around for a really long time before we got to that. That’s definitely how we got our name out.
Lachlan: It helped us out at Friday Night Live at ANU as well. I think that’s probably how they found out about us as well. It’s sort of helped move things along a lot faster then they would have otherwise.
Q: What would you say is the most difficult part of getting into the music industry in Canberra?
Eliza: I’m from Melbourne originally and it’s interesting seeing our friends back home that are playing gigs. It’s a really different scene because there are a lot less venues then there are in other cities. But there are also probably a lot less bands here so we probably have had a lot of opportunities that have come up because of that. I think the difficult thing is a lot of venues are closing down. It’s a smaller population. We did play a gig at a rock venue and it was a pretty small crowd I think because it was hard to advertise to people who don’t really go to those venues.
Lachlan: With us because we only have seven songs. We don’t really do covers so we’ve got the same set list every time. A lot of people are like “Oh I’ve heard them so I don’t have to come because it’ll just be the same.”
Eliza: Another hard thing as well, is we’re super lucky with the opportunity to record. For a lot of bands that can be really hard.
Jack: We were lucky, Lauren was just playing a gig and this guy called Guy Lilleyman approached her and asked her if she wanted to record in his studio, because he had built a studio at his parents property with his brother called Amberly Studios. She said “Yeah can I bring my band?” Then we did a demo track of one of the songs and then did a whole EP once we brought Lachlan on. It’s such a nice studio and such a crazy opportunity to get that level of commitment from somebody who we didn’t give much to. He really wanted to do it, he put in so many hours before we gave him any money.
Lachlan: He put in a lot of work before he got anything out of it.
Eliza: I guess a lot of opportunities also came from Unearthed. I think that’s something difficult for bands if you don’t have an in with a recording studio or know someone in the industry, it’s hard to get your foot in the door and record.
Lachlan: For a lot of bands its hard to put in the initial financial contribution, because it takes a lot of work to get your money back. For a lot of bands that’s probably the hardest thing and instruments as well. If you can’t spend that sort of money it makes it hard.
Q: Is it hard to get a recording contract in Canberra?
Lachlan: If you have money you can record quite easily.
Jack: It’s all about connections really, and we’ve been extremely lucky. Jonah’s dad is a photographer, I’ve got my friend that did our art who is now a pretty famous artist, my cousin did the music video, Lauren just happened to meet Guy, we met Billy and we’ve just been very lucky. It’s been easy to get a lot of this stuff that would probably take a lot longer for a lot of people.
Q: Now Small Talk has a foot in the door of Canberra’s music industry, what do you suggest we can do to support up and coming musicians?
Eliza: I think definitely just going to more live gigs. In Canberra it’s so cheap. A lot of gigs with paid entry is like five to ten dollars and often that’s being split between four bands on the line-up. That’s two to three coffees in your week, just coming along to gigs and supporting local acts even if you haven’t heard of them.
Lachlan: We don’t really have a culture in Canberra of just going to music gigs. We have a small population that does and then everyone else doesn’t go. I don’t think I’ve really been to many before I started playing.
Eliza: We need to build that culture.
Lachlan: Especially when bands have recordings, sometimes those recordings are not the best or they might not have any. They might have recorded five years ago and are much better now. It’s hard to actually tell how good a band is, like some of the amateur bands, if you haven’t been to one of their gigs.
Q: How has Canberra’s music industry supported Small Talk?
Jack: Basically just Billy, who’s trying to build the Canberra music industry at the moment. His name is William Bianchini.
Eliza: He started a record label called Warm Water which has supported us massively. He’s really helped us, especially with publicity and organising gigs for us.
Jack: The bands that are under him he’s already done a lot of recording for, which is cool because he can get into the ANU studio because he did classes there, which is the best in the Southern hemisphere. He’s also always getting in touch with people on Triple J to get them to play local musician’s music and is in communication with the ACT music community.
Lachlan: He’s working with a lot of up and coming bands. Most record labels are doing bands that have already done well for themselves, so he’s really supporting the growth rather than just the people who have broken out into the scene already.
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Q: What advice can you give other aspiring musicians in Canberra?
Eliza: I guess just give it a go and take any opportunity that’s thrown at you. At the start of this year we were playing gigs every week and even if some only had three people there it was still such a great opportunity to practice and meet people at the venues and learn from other bands that you’re playing with, especially the more experienced bands. For me, that was the main thing, taking literally any opportunity that you can. Maybe you can’t do anything on your weekends but it’s the best thing that you can do.
Jack: I know so many people that write songs for fun and just think it’s not going to go anywhere but I think you should show people and see what you can do with it.
Lachlan: I’d say when you’re doing gigs just talk to the other bands. If you have a good chat to them, they will probably invite you to do something else with them. The more you network the more opportunities will come your way.
Eliza: And have fun!
Lachlan: Having fun is the main part, if you’re not having fun there’s not much point doing it.
Q: What’s next for Small Talk?
Jack: Recording another EP in June but we don’t have any dates booked in. We’re just writing stuff at the moment but hopefully we’ll have a second EP released around the same time as the last one.
Lachlan: EP or album.
Jack: Or album if we write an album.
Eliza: We’re taking a bit of a break now, we don’t have any gigs for a little while so we can focus our time on writing songs. Stay tuned!